You love your partner. But the nagging voice in your head just won’t quit. What if they’re cheating on me? What if they’re lying? Are they going to leave me? Should I be with someone else? Do they care about me as much as I care about them?
No doubt these thoughts can feel overwhelming. After all, you want to feel secure in your relationship. But what constitutes reasonable anxiety? When do you know things have gotten out of hand? And how do you actually deal?
Understand That Some Relationship Anxiety Is Normal
All couples experience relationship anxiety. That’s because all relationships entail some ambiguity. For example, you might feel anxious when you first begin dating. You want to know where things are going and if you’re both on the same page.
In times of stress or conflict, you might question your partner’s loyalty. Do they really understand what you need? Can you two get through this? Finally, you may experience moments of resentment, sadness, or even boredom. Any of those feelings can trigger speculation if you’re in the right relationship.
Rest assured that some anxiety is normal. In healthy relationships, people recognize the feeling and address it either alone or with their partner. The anxiety doesn’t consume them.
Relationship Anxiety Can Cause You To Self-Sabotage
Anxiety about your relationship stems from a sense of powerlessness. You feel out of control over a particular situation. You constantly question yourself as well as your partner. If your anxiety takes over it can feel debilitating. Understanding what may be the root cause can help alleviate anxiety.
Have you been cheated on in the past? If so, you might assume that history will invariably repeat itself. Do you struggle with low self-esteem? If you do, you might question why your partner is with you in the first place.
We all have our insecurities and hang-ups. Moreover, our attachment styles can impact how we trust and connect with others.
Unfortunately, some people cope with their relationship anxiety by creating self-fulfilling prophecies. In other words, you subconsciously start to sabotage the relationship.
Some subtle signs of sabotage include:
Starting arguments with your partner
Withholding or guarding important information
Crossing relationship boundaries
Insisting nothing is wrong even when it’s obvious you’re in pain
Criticizing your partner
Making frequent statements about your partner leaving or hurting you
Withholding affection and intimacy
These actions, even if they are unintentional, aim to “test” your partner’s loyalty. Your partner may pass the tests several times. However, after time, they may grow frustrated, confused, and resentful. As a result, they might start shutting down, drifting away, or losing interest altogether.
Tips For Coping With Relationship Anxiety
If you struggle with relationship anxiety, it doesn’t mean that your relationships are doomed. It just means that you need to be aware of your patterns and change your behaviors. If you value healthy and mature relationships, you must make healthy and mature choices.
Identify and Articulate Your Needs
In healthy relationships, partners freely discuss their feelings and boundaries. They aim to respect each other’s needs. They talk things out, even when it might feel uncomfortable. With that in mind, talking does not mean dumping, venting, or attacking. It also doesn't mean your partner has to make everything ok for you.
Consider using I-statements when communicating difficult material. I-statements assume ownership over your thoughts and feelings. Instead of saying, You can’t be trusted, consider the more adaptive reframe, I feel insecure when I don’t hear from you when you’re gone all night.
Pause Before You Act
When you feel anxious, you may act out to mitigate some of this discomfort. Acting out can include a variety of behaviors like:
Making rigid accusations about your partner’s behavior
Crossing boundaries (texting your ex, leaving the house abruptly, etc.)
Making idle threats about leaving (or your partner leaving)
Invading your partner’s personal property
It’s no surprise that these behaviors can exacerbate tension. Similarly, they can worsen the relationship anxiety. It’s a vicious cycle, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by it.
Consider adopting a more mindful approach. Take a few deep breaths. Check in with your feelings and motives. Identify your needs. Pause and reflect on the best way to approach the situation.
Strengthen Your Personal Identity
Many people lose themselves in their relationships. They become preoccupied with wanting to make the other person happy. They neglect their own passions, friendships, or self-care because the relationship becomes so consuming.
Healthy relationships require healthy people. Invest in cultivating your self-esteem. This may mean practicing positive affirmations and self-compassion every day. It may also mean spending time with positive influences or taking healthy risks with work or school.
Finally, you need to have a separate life outside of your relationship. This separation keeps you feeling refreshed and engaged with the world, and it can also actually bring the two of your closer.
Relationship anxiety can stem from depression, anxiety, trauma, and low self-esteem. Many people find themselves in patterns of destructive, unhealthy relationships because they don’t address some of these core issues.
Therapy can help you enhance your self-awareness. Similarly, it can teach you adaptive coping skills to manage relationship anxiety before, during, and after it arises.
Relationship anxiety doesn’t have to define your identity. It doesn’t have to cripple your relationships or hurt the people you love the most. You can learn how to work through some of the distress.
Our relationships are the most treasured pieces of our lives. Commit to honor, value, and work on them. If you’re struggling, it’s okay to reach out. Together, we can learn adaptive ways to feel better with your partner.